The difference between major depression and bipolar disorder is the presence of mania, at least some of the time. There may not be a “cure” for bipolar mania, but proper treatment can make living with it much easier and healthier. Asking for help is an option that can benefit you and all those who love you. But what is mania?
The simplest way to understand mania is that it’s a state of mind where the individual is feeling “too up.” They might be extremely confident — irrationally confident, like thinking they can run the Boston Marathon right now without any training or even applying to run in the race first. Or they might be incredibly, bizarrely angry with everyone all of the time, out of the blue.
Other symptoms of mania include a severely reduced need or desire for sleep, a sudden interest in extreme or frequent sex, spending a surprisingly large amount of money, becoming so talkative that no one can understand what is being said, new experimentation in drugs or overuse of alcohol, and so on. Anything risky, fast, or thrilling is a possibility, especially if the behavior doesn’t make sense. A billionaire can easily lose $100,000 at a casino quite casually, but this would be extreme and bizarre for someone who has a regular middle class job. There is even a possibility that a person experiencing mania loses contact with reality, having delusions or hallucinations.
A person who is manic may not think there’s a problem with how they are feeling and behaving, even if their friends and family are worried. Losing a job, going to jail, or being hospitalized may not bother them at all. The important thing is that the emotions and behavior are abnormal for this person, that these symptoms cause real problems in their life, and that it lasts for at least a week. A single manic episode is sufficient for a Bipolar I diagnosis, even if the person has never been depressed. A milder form of mania, called hypomania, might last for less than a week and generally has less serious consequences. The presence of hypomania, combined with separate episodes of depression, results in a diagnosis of Bipolar II.
Treatment for mania is primarily medication based. Talk therapy is also used, to help the person realize that there is a problem, and help them understand how to reduce their symptoms. It is especially important for the person to develop and stick to a daily routine of eating, socializing, working, sleeping, and taking their prescribed medications at the same times each day. These lifestyle choices can make episodes less severe, and allow the person to work on improving their quality of life between episodes. Therapy between episodes also helps the person resolve problems that were created during the mania, such as paying down debt, dealing with the criminal justice system, and repairing relationships damaged by manic behavior.
There is no “cure” for bipolar mania, but proper treatment can make living with it much easier and healthier. Asking for help is the first step. If you believe you have experienced a manic episode, try taking this bipolar screening test, or contact us for an evaluation. We can also help if you are concerned by the behavior of a loved one, or are having trouble coping with how their symptoms affect you. You are not alone.